When a musician of the rank and status of Roger Woodward decides to record Bach's complete Well-Tempered Clavier at the age of 65, one could see a symbolic connection here, keeping in kind that Bach passed away at 65; the pianist senses responsibility for the continuation of tradition. Moreover, Woodward sees an additional obligation to add new life to the music through his unique style of interpretation. With this, he is in the best of company indeed: It had been pointed out repeatedly - since his release of BWV 903, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue - that Woodward's Bach is the most exciting since Glenn Gould. However, one ought not to misunderstand Woodward as iconoclast; his understanding of Bach is minted by tradition and above all respectful, especially showing such respect to those who set standards during the first century of recording technology. Although Woodward named it 'a defining moment' when he received the first finished copies of his Well-Tempered Clavier, he hastens to point out that one has to see him as the eternal student whose search for truth in music cannot end. If one compares Woodward's reference recording of both books of Debussy's Préludes (Celestial Harmonies 13279-2) with his complete recording of both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier on 5 CDs, one winds up with the identical understanding of the works albeit having traveled in opposite directions. Was it Woodward's intention to find the structure (Woodward says 'the geometry') in Debussy, taking passion as a given, so is his way to Bach the reverse: He accepts the structure as a given and embarks on the search for passion. In both instances, one receives as the result a balanced however passionate interpretation where structure and expression exist with equal rights, as should be the case in all great music. It is something like the heart of great Flamenco: The ideal and complete merging of total discipline and precision with the passion which only can give true life to music. When Woodward was searching for the 'sacred cantilena' in Chopin's Nocturnes (Celestial Harmonies 14260-2), he rests his search for a fleeting moment with the 'legato cantabile' which can only be played as such on a modern grand piano (here a Hamburg Steinway D, dating from the early 1980s). Surely what Woodward said about Hans Otte and his 48-part magnum opus 'Book of Hours' (Celestial Harmonies 13259-2) is equally true in the case of Bach: That some music doesn't open up through practice alone but only through reflection as it is philosophy in the end. The complete edition of both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier on 5 CDs contains an 80-page essay by Roger Woodward, 'In Search of a Performance Practice', in German and English as well as the autographs of both books as high-quality facsimiles; for the first time, the lost pages have been replaced by contemporary music-set versions, based on the best available printed editions. It is thus the most complete publication of the Well-Tempered Clavier ever. Woodward had - whenever performance issues surfaced - throughout the recording process always consulted the autographs as the first and last instance.
About the Artist
Currently resident in San Francisco, Roger Woodward performs with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, New York, Los Angeles and Israel Philharmonics, Orchestre de Paris, the Cleveland Orchestra, London orchestras and European Community Gustav Mahler Jugend-orchester, with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Paavo Berglund, Pierre Boulez, Charles Dutoit, Eliahu Inbal, James Judd, Eric Leinsdorf, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Roger Norrington, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Witold Rowicki, Walter Susskind, Georg Tintner, Edo de Waart, and Hans Zender.